IN MY years of training and research in the area of communication, I noticed that people often take certain ground rules for granted.

You can significantly improve your communication ability by keeping these 10 principles in mind.

1. Express, not impress

Many people tend to use big words to try to impress others because using these words is associated with intelligence.

But wise people use simple language that anyone can understand. They realise that if the other person does not understand their message, they have failed to communicate.

2. Seek to understand

Most of us are more interested in being understood by the other party than in understanding him. But if either person is not understood, the communication has failed.

Lawyers sometimes describe an agreement as a "meeting of the minds". Agreement or understanding occurs only when both parties are of the same mind.

The same can be said for communication. For successful communication to occur, both parties must interpret the meaning of the message in the same way.

3. Learn with your ears

Listening is more than keeping quiet while someone else is talking. It is the art of interpreting the words of another and giving them meaning.

It is an active process that requires thought and ideally an empathetic process that requires feeling and understanding.

If an understanding is a meeting of the minds, then good empathic listening is a meeting of the hearts. Listening is how you find out what others feel and want.

4. What others want

People do things for their reasons, not yours, so it is important to find out what others want.

But the problem is their intentions are sometimes indecipherable. Most people assume that because a reason sounds feasible, it is practical for everyone else.

To find out what people are thinking, you have to develop rapport, empathise with them, ask questions and gain their trust.

5. What others tell you

People have two reasons for everything: the one they tell you and the one they hide from you.

The former usually sounds good and high-minded. Or it could be what they think you want to hear.

People obscure the truth because they are afraid they would be put in a bad light. With open communication and trust, others are more likely to tell you what they truly think and feel.

Often, a person's real reason is not exactly a reason but an emotion.

6. Be emotion savvy

Everyone likes to believe that he is a logical creature and makes rational decisions. But people often act based on their emotions and justify their action with a reason later.

7. Perceive accurately

Perception is reality. People see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.

Some people always see the glass as half-full; others see it as half-empty. We do not see the world as it is - we see the world according to who we are.

8. Question wisely

When offering a proposal, the way you present alternatives or pose a question can make a difference.

Framing the question thoughtfully helps you get what you want.

9. Make a good offer

Making it easy for people to say "yes" can increase the chances of getting what you want. Too often, people focus on winning, looking good and being right.

Having things done your way may not always be as satisfying as getting others to accede to your request willingly. Look for alternatives to get cheerful cooperation rather than grudging compliance.

10. Be empathetic

In recent years, emotional quotient (EQ) is increasingly recognised as more important to success than traditional intelligence.

EQ is a cluster of abilities such as empathy and the knack for recognising emotions in others. With empathy, you know how others feel and show them you are aware. It connects you with people and is the heart of communication.